Cinque Terre is undeniably one of the most beautiful areas of Italy; a visit to just one of its towns will confirm this. Cinque Terre was just made to grace picture postcards. Located in northwest Italy, its five towns are built on steep hills and atop high cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. It doesn’t get much more scenic than this. Most towns are reachable only by train. Comfortable walking shoes are a must since cars aren’t allowed in the older sections of these towns. Visiting the Cinque Terre villages is not only exercise for the body, but exercise for the soul.
Monterosso al Mare is a small village on the northwest coast with the best beaches on Cinque Terre. Monterosso has the best beaches of the Cinque Terre villages and the most wine shops, artisan shops, hotels and restaurants. It is divided into Old and New Town that are connected by a tunnel used mainly by pedestrians. The best way to get there is via train unless drivers have nerves of steel enough to navigate a narrow, steep and winding road. A top sight is the Church of San Francisco, a monastery that boasts a Van Dyck painting. The village is well-known for its lemons, olives and white wines, so travelers will want to be sure to sample some.
Corniglia feels smaller and quieter, but is just as charming as the other towns. Sitting on top of a cliff that falls off abruptly into the ocean and surrounded by vineyards, Corniglia nonetheless provides stunning views of the Mediterranean. It’s best reached by climbing 382 steps, though sometimes buses are available on the road. Corniglia is characterized by the same narrow streets and quaint buildings as the other Cinque Terre towns. The main historical artifact, aside from the colorful homes, is some Genoese fortifications built in the 16th century.
Riomaggiore, the southernmost town in Cinque Terre, has lots of wow! factor as the sight of houses clinging to step hills will immediately invoke this exclamation. The town is known for its historic buildings and, of course, its locally produced wines. Riomaggiore has a small beach as well as lots of shops and restaurants. Hiking the Via dell’Amore to Manarola is considered a top tourist activity, but visitors won’t want to miss seeing the Church of San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist), a medieval church that oozes serenity on the hillside on which it is built.
Like the other Cinque Terre towns, Manarola sits atop a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. It is the second smallest town in the group, and also is considered to be the oldest. Manarola is filled with the same narrow stone streets and charming colorful buildings. Manarola is a fishing village that is also long-famous for its wines; the village’s wines were even mentioned by the Romans. Manarola is a great place for hikers, who can take to the hills and vineyards, as well as walk to Riomaggiore, which is perhaps the most famous walk in Cinque Terre.
After devastating flooding and mudslides in 2011, Vernazza has reclaimed its reputation as the most picturesque town in Cinque Terre. This small fishing village is loaded with charm. Not only that, but it has the best harbor in the Cinque Terre. The picture-postcard village sits atop a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a great place to explore by foot – indeed, foot is the only way as cars aren’t permitted on the narrow streets that are marked with frequent steps. Walking between Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare is a special treat for visitors; the hike takes about 90 minutes.